Chess and technology

August 22, 2009 at 6:47 pm 1 comment

Imagine, for a moment, that you live in a world where the latest advancement in communication was the ship. Courtesy of that advancement you live only a month’s travel from Europe. On those ships are carried the journals providing news of Australia and Europe to each other. This is your sole contact with the outside world.

For chess, like so much else in the community, the invention of the telegraph had a revolutionary impact. With the exception of the few Australian championship tournaments held prior to the nineteen-twenties, interstate matches using the new invention were the way in which players from different parts of Australia met.

These days, when technology lets the matches be played at close to real time, the conditions of the first match will seem unbelievable. South Australia and Victoria sat down to play against each other on Monday 21 September 1868 at 8pm. Play stopped…

…at 2am with only about 12 moves played. It continued Tuesday 8pm to 2am, Thursday 8pm to 2am and Monday from 8pm. The final game finished on Tuesday 29-9 at 6.30am. (Tony Wright Australian Chess to 1914 section 2)

It was Charlick who instigated the challenge and he who was the last to finish. Melbourne won decisively, 5-1 with one draw. By the time Victoria and NSW first played, two years later in 1870, transmission delays had evidently been sorted out: play took ‘only’ twelve and a half hours. The matches in these early years established without doubt that Victoria was the strongest colony. Only in the 1890s did this begin to change. When in 1894 NSW boasted Wallace, Crane, Jacobsen and Hall on the top four boards, it had its first commanding victory against Victoria. The result was a lot closer next year, Jacobsen absent, but young Crackenthorp making his debut appearance. Nonetheless, NSW had, at last, won two in a row.


Entry filed under: chess.

Computers, women and things like that. Doing a Ponting

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Richard  |  August 23, 2009 at 7:18 am

    Chess clocks weren’t invented until late in the nineteenth century, so some of the delay in the first match probably represents customary practice of the time. Matches were often very protracted, with players trying to make simple physical stamina a factor. (That whole subject makes an amusing story, if you look into it).


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